Veterans Job Credit is Feel-Good Tax Policy -- and a Distraction

The Senate is poised this week for another exercise in strictly symbolic politics.The VOW to Hire Heroes Act -- a pair of job creation tax incentives extracted from the ruins of President Obama's failed stimulus measure -- seems likely to get a vote in the next few days. Let's hope it passes, so we can get on with more serious policymaking.

Let's be clear: I am fully enthusiastic about the goals and intentions of this bill. Veterans are underappreciated and deeply deserving. Veterans' groups have made this point repeatedly, and they are right.

But this sort of feel-good legislation is a distraction from more serious policymaking. By their very nature, job creation incentives are of dubious utility. Some seem to make a difference, at least on the margin. Others not so much. But rarely have they delivered as hoped (and advertised). As the Congressional Research Service concluded last year, "incremental tax credits have the potential of increasing employment, but in practice may not be as effective in increasing employment as desired." Not exactly a rave.

These kinds of tax incentives fall into the "something is better than nothing" category of public policy....

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